Do It Yourself

Posted by: Roberta Fallon

When you get advice to “Just do it!,” don’t be put off. That’s not a brush off; rather, it means the person advising you believes in your capacity to get the job done, and that’s awesome.

The Means are Available
To state the obvious: This is The Era of DIY. Whatever you want to do in the 21st Century, the means are at your disposal. We are in a time of unparalleled means – means of production; means of distribution; means of communication; means of financing and sadly, means of destruction. Actually, nowadays there is little you can’t do yourself, or can’t do with, say, a little help from your friends.

You are Able
At its base, DIY embodies a great sentiment: that you are powerful. You can learn the skills needed to do just about anything. Do you want to make a 3-D print of salt and pepper shakers to give to your best friend who is graduating college? You absolutely can do that. 3-D printing studios exist and you can access them, and you should, if that is your dream. Do you want to make a small edition of books of your drawings or photographs to sell at a holiday craft fair? Online publishing is there for you.

Artist as Idea Generator
As an artist you are an idea generator. You think things up. Ideas fuel your work. You probably have invented something already. But an artist’s ideas are nothing unless realized. A painting, sculpture, installation, print, video, play, tv show, comic book, book or game is an idea realized. It can be a powerful thing. If the idea is big enough its realization can change the world. Take Picasso’s Guernica.

DIY and Sharing
Or Wikipedia. The free encyclopedia available to all may seem like no big deal, but it is. Wikipedia de-institutionalized “official” information — previously contained in books made by private companies, who sold that information for profit – and made the information free and widely available. The founders of Wikipedia, they did it themselves!

And they invited the world to participate in their creation. Not only can you “use” Wikipedia to research, but, as an informed citizen of the world, you can correct or edit Wikipedia. You can create new Wikipedia pages. You can, if you choose, contribute to the vast and ever-growing body of knowledge about things that matter to humans on Planet Earth. Wikipedia is a perfect storm of DIY and sharing that should be a model to us all.

Example – PFSHN 215
Let’s say it’s 2014 and you want to start a publication in Philadelphia about fashion. You are sick of Vogue and W and see a real need for a grass roots magazine written by young people and dealing with contemporary issues. You are passionate about this and think your idea is brilliant – you even have a name: PFSHN 215. In your research you find out that printing is expensive and distribution is labor intensive and a logistical nightmare. You are deflated.

Then someone tells you “Just start a blog.” Do you take the challenge? Yes, you do! You’re an artist and a risk-taker and you believe in your idea – and so do others you’ve talked with. You move forward. You get some help from friends and colleagues. And, after a lot of work and some sleepless nights, you launch your online publication. You have made something of value that contributes to the world around you.

Do It Yourself, Together
Crucial to the success of PFSHN 215 is the collaborative approach to Doing It Yourself. It is easier to feel empowered if you are working collaboratively. Two heads are great for discussing issues; four hands get more work done; two people’s finances create a bigger bucket of cash; two people buoy each other’s spirits in stressful times like when you’re waiting to hear about the grant you applied for. There are many reasons to collaborate but if you want to Do It Yourself, there is no better way than to Do It Yourself, Together.

Financing It Yourself, Together
Unless you’re a trust fund baby or have access to Venture Capital, you will most likely begin funding your project, your idea, your practice, out of your own pocket, either with cash or credit cards. I have heard stories of successful artists who max out their credit cards to realize a project. It shouldn’t have to come to that but sometimes it does.

Crowd sourcing platforms (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo) are DIY Financing that help an artist realize a project. Generally speaking, crowd sourcing is for a specific project not for general operating expenses. “I need money to frame my drawings for a show I’m in next month” is a better pitch than “I need money to buy stretchers and canvas so I can begin work on a new series of paintings.”

Crowd sourcing is an innovative idea that is both DIY and part of the sharing economy. But unlike Wikipedia, crowd sourcing platforms are for profit, and some of the sharing is sharing a percentage of the revenue you make from your appeal with your crowd sourcing host. Don’t hate them, it’s just business. But do be aware that if your financial goal is $2,500, you probably need to raise around $3,000 to make up for the percentage the crowd funding platform will take.

Final Word
Making art is a risky business. But taking that risk is very much worth it. With confidence in yourself and with a little help from friends and collaborators you really Can Do It Yourself.

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